When I began thinking about starting a second late war German force for Flames of War over the winter, there was one tank I absolutely wanted to include; the Panzer IV. Originally designed for infantry support, it has to be one of Germany’s most iconic tanks. From a list point of view it’s also incredibly flexible bulking out the Company HQ and combat platoons for a Panzerkompanie as well as being able to be fielded as Divisional Support for a Fallschirmjaeger Kompanie. Both Battlefront and Plastic Soldier Company had existing kits I liked, but it was Battlefront’s newly released all-plastic kit that I most wanted to try out and the timing of it’s launch couldn’t have been better.
No doubt you may have read elsewhere, or on Battlefront’s own site the new kit doesn’t come without a couple of historic mishaps, the biggest being the miscalculation in the number of Shurtzen plates along the side. Battlefront have kindly offered to replace them with sets from the hybrid kit which contain the correct (five) panels, however on reflection I actually don’t mind the fact they have the wrong number; I actually think I prefer the look of the four panel screens. So the versions shown here are literally out of the box as you will get them. That’s not to say however I haven’t made a couple of tweaks to make them look a bit more interesting and less generic.
As a plastic kit, they are utterly superb and a massive improvement on the quality of the all-plastic Sherman’s and Stug’s found in the Open Fire starter set. Personally I had no issues with the starter kits other than the Sherman’s ill-fitting tracks, but Battlefront have clearly learned a lot from their earlier designs and stepped it up a notch. The plastic is crisp and well detailed and the entire tank goes together with little effort and with excellent precision. No gaps anywhere. The only real fiddly assembly was adding the hull mounted MG which is a pain being so small and trickier to stick in place when the hull is fully assembled as per Battlefront’s online assembly guide. It’s not harder to glue, just difficult to see which way around the slot is oriented. For that reason I recommend adding the MG to the top part of the hull before gluing it to the lower section.
The other thing I did was glue a few bits of waste metal to the lower hull before sealing it up. This was purely to add a little extra weight to the model as the all-plastic tanks can feel a bit light otherwise and this gives them a nice feel in the handling as well as increase their stability a little. It’s purely a personal choice.
Another nice touch I found with the kit is the inclusion of a Shurtzen free rail. This had two immediate benefits; firstly you could do a Panzer IV H sans-Shurtzen, but with the factory frame in place. It also it meant I could mix in a bit of field damage. By stripping away the rail from the inside of the Shurtzen with a craft blade and sanding block I could remove one or two panels and then re-attach the armour to the naked rail, effectively recreating the entire length again but with missing sections. This gave me a little variety as well as expose some of the lovely track detail.
While I’m on the subject of assembly, I also picked up a pair of Sdkfz 7/1 halftracks armed with 2cm quad anti-aircraft guns. Purely to make Kev think twice about pouncing on my new Panzer’s with his P-38. At the last minute I decided to add magnets to the gun section so that it could be posed. Probably unnecessary but it did add a fun tactile element. So all told I now have a dozen vehicles sat on the workbench ready for priming and couldn’t be happier with Battlefront’s latest addition to the family. If the weather is as good as promised I’ll have them primed up and ready for the fun part over the weekend.